By Paul Goodman
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Boris Johnson wants a new airport on a man-made island in the Thames Estuary. Not all that long ago:
- David Cameron was unpersuaded.
- The Transport Department was unenthused.
- Nick Clegg was opposed.
Today, the Daily Telegraph reports that:
- David Cameron is expected to offer his "provisional support" for the scheme. The paper says that he "will be supportive of the proposed airport" but will make a final decision after a consultation.
- Nick Clegg now has "an open mind". The Liberal Democrats are against airport expansion. Senior Tories believe that the party doesn't want to help boost Boris during the run-up to this spring's Mayoral election. Clegg reportedly blocked an announcement on January 3.
It's worth noting that:
- George Osborne is key to this shift in the Government's position. The Mail said in November that the Chancellor had "warmed to the idea". The paper claimed separately that Steve Hilton had "thrown his weight" behind the scheme.
- The arrival of Justine Greening at Transport was helpful to Boris. Greening's Putney constituency is below a Heathrow flightpath. She has campaigned against Heathrow expansion. Her predecessor, Philip Hammond, had a more detached view.
- A thumbs-up for the plan would be a big win for the Mayor. His support for the proposal left him a lonely figure at first. But Bojo has kept his mojo – gradually made headway as the search for more airport capacity and business expansion went on.
The Telegraph quotes Boris as saying:
“The capital’s airports are full, our runways are rammed and we risk losing jobs to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Madrid or other European cities should we fail to act.
“No other city even approaches the volume of passengers handled at London’s airports but we need to start planning for a brand new airport that can help meet the ever-increasing demand for aviation and act as a hub, particularly to the rest of the UK."